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It's turn of the century America when Andrew and Veronica first meet - by crashing into each other. They develop an instant and mutual dislike which intensifies when, later on, Andrew is forced to hire Veronica as a saleslady at Oberkugen's music store. What the two don't know is that while they may argue and fight constantly throughout the day, they are actually engaged in an innocent, romantic and completely anonymous relationship by night, through the post office. Written by
Lazslo's Valentine Now Put Back into 1890s America
In 1940 Ernst Lubitsch had done a film called THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, based on the play PERFUMERIE by Miklos Lazslo. The comedy about two fellow employees in a store who fight all the time, and don't realize that the pen-pal they have grown to love is the same person opposite them became a film classic, and would be the first of many versions. The second version was this 1949 film, which would also be the first musical version (the second was the Broadway musical by Kander and Ebb SHE LOVES ME). Instead of Jimmy Stewart, Margaret Sullivan, Frank Morgan, Felix Bressart, and Joseph Schildkraut, this film would have Van Johnson, Judy Garland, S. Z. Sakall, Clinton Sundberg, and Buster Keaton.
But there are differences between the two films in setting and plot. Mr. Matuschek is driven into a depression (misdirected at his favorite, Kralek) due to awareness that his wife is having an affair with an employee. Here Sakall plays Mr. Obenkugen, who owns a music store (not a leather goods shop), and who is not married. He is in love with his secretary Nellie (Spring Byington), and plans to marry her. Joseph Schildkraut was the villain in THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER as Ferencz Vadas. Buster Keaton is not villainous, but just clumsy. He does fill in as a technical rival to Johnson for Garland, but this is never fully developed in the plot (one wonders if scenes were shot that were cut involving Buster "dating" Judy). Judy also notes that there is another young lady in Johnson's life - Louise Parkson, a gifted violinist (Marcia Van Dyke). No such character is in THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER.
But the basic situations of the former film's plot, and their resolutions, are the same. The flavor of the "gay '90s" is found throughout the film, in the choice of the music used (not only the title song, but such tunes as "I Don't Care!") and in the atmosphere of mid-western America with its barbershop quartets and singing waiters, and it's pretensions to culture (the business with Sakall's prized Stradavarius violin).
There is only one final, charming addition at the conclusion that is not in the first film - Margaret Sullivan's daughter did not make a special appearance at the conclusion as her child by Stewart. But Liza Minelli did make her first appearance here as Garland's child by Johnson. It was the only film the mother and daughter ever made together.
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